What can the richly imagined, impressively adaptable fantasy world of these children tell us about childhood, development, education, and even life itself? For fifty years, teacher and writer Vivian Gussin Paley has been exploring the imagery, language, and lore of young children, asking the questions they ask of themselves.
In The Boy on the Beach she continues to do so, going deeper into the mystery of play as she follows Eli and Marianne through the kindergarten year, finding more answers and more questions. How does their teacher, Mrs. Olson, manage to honor and utilize the genius of play to create an all-inclusive community in which boys and girls like each other and listen to each other’s stories? Why is Paley’s fellow teacher Yu-ching in Taiwan certain that her children pretend to be kittens in order to become necessary to the group? And why do teachers in London see their childrens’ role-playing as the natural end to loneliness in the school community?
Rich with the words of children and teachers themselves, The Boy on the Beach is vintage Paley, a wise and provocative appreciation of the importance of play and enduring curiosity about the nature of childhood and the imagination.
"Wally's Stories" is itself a story: the story of the evolution of a kindergarten classroom in which Vivian Paley learned to stop fighting childish fantasy and instead make use of it to stimulate the very best brand of thinking her five year-olds can muster. Stories also lie at the heart of her classroom: stories that are first told by one of the children, then transcribed by the teacher, and then acted out by the class in dramatic productions of their own design. Vivian Paley shows that in the course of creating their own dramatic world, five-year-olds are capable of thought and language far in advance of what they accomplish in traditional classroom exercises. The children's stories also become a vehicle that they can use to explain themselves to their teacher and to one another. Together, teacher and children develop an unusual environment, one that is logical and literate, based on rules of fairness, friendship, and fantasy.
Vivian Paley's book is as refreshing as her teaching method. A new kind of book about a new kind of classroom.